By Madeleine Post, Staff Writer
The issue of racism is far from solved, and like many of the age-old issues that still haunt western civilization, it isn’t likely to be fixed any time soon. This is the message media, academia, and pop culture have passed down to the millennial generation — a message that leaves our generation unsatisfied. Why, exactly, should we be OK with a world rife with racial tension?
We’re bombarded from all sides with various messages which only heighten this tension. The right scoffs at diversity; it’s a superficial, left-wing value. The left, in turn, jumps to the other extreme, ensuring that minority students receive scholarships not based on financial need or academic merit but simply the fact that these students are minorities. There are aspects of truth in both left and right attitudes about diversity. Diversity is a good thing — a great thing, even, more than necessary in any pluralistic society. But are are we perhaps taking the value of racial diversity a little too far, especially when it comes to the typical four-year college campus?
I attend a liberal arts school which is predominantly white — a fact my classmates and I often bemoan. Where’s the diversity? It isn’t as if good academic writing and a love of the great books are restricted to white, middle-class Americans. I was born in a diverse suburban neighborhood. Our neighbors were Jewish, African-American, Korean — and no one really thought about it. Diversity was simply a culture — a way of life.
College, however, is a different story. Many college students grow up in predominantly white neighborhoods. I think this is an issue. If different individuals have never cultivated friendships with, let alone seen a member of a different race, how are those individuals supposed to value and respect the opinions flowing from members of different races? Lack of racial diversity can lead to a lack of intellectual diversity — something crucial in today’s progressive world. Diversity of opinions lead to truth, or at least allow room for the truth — the very heart and soul of academia — to exist.
But if a lack of racial diversity prevents us from recognizing intellectual diversity and seeing truth, there is certainly some truth to the rightwing claim that our world is superficial. Why is it that we must accept what we see with our eyes before we can respect what we see with our minds? It’s impossible to change fallen human nature as a whole. However, we can change the way that we view diversity. Race is just one element among many that comprise a person. Rather than focus solely on the value of racial diversity, we should take into account religious diversity, political diversity, diversity of personalities, all of which are crucial aspects of the human person.
This world is a world of “both, and,” not “nothing, but” — that is to say, we cannot reduce our view of personhood to one element, whether that element be race, biology, gender, etc. True diversity sees the whole of the human person and embraces that person for who he or she is. That’s authentic diversity, as well as authentic respect. What a difference adopting this “both, and” mentality would make in our own lives, not to mention on our college campuses.